Chip Conley: The Most Neglected Fact in Business is That We Are All Human

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Chip-conley (2)Chip Conley was the next to the last speaker on the TEDxBerkeley stage last weekend, the event which nearly sold out at nearly 1,300 attendees in Zellerbach Hall.

Most known as the founder and CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, California’s largest boutique hotel company which was founded in 1987, he has been focusing on building transformational leadership practices, and an innovative design formula that enables customers to experience an “identity refreshment.”

He talked about despair and used examples from his personal life. Within a very short period of time, a few people he knew (men between 46 and 50 years old) committed suicide. Despair, he says is suffering minus meaning. And, happiness he asserts is gratitude over gratification.

He has been studying happiness in Bhutan. The east teaches us that happiness is not about force and control, but about letting go. Happiness is about being happy about what you have not longing for what you don’t have; in other words, gratitude and the act of gratitude.

He throws up a slide that reads:

Happiness = Practice + Pursuit

If you read about pursuit in the dictionary, its to chase with hostility. He asks with intention, “do we chase happiness with hostility in this country?” Ya think? All the time baby, especially in Silicon Valley and New York.

He then asks with even more intention and conviction:

What are you Running From ? (the addiction)


What are you Living For? (your purpose)

Up comes another slide. Hmmm, I can’t say I didn’t resonate with this one.

Anxiety = Certainty x Powerlessness

All of these are wrapped around fear and fear is one of the most contagious forces we face in our lives. When we live in fear, and in a state of anxiety, we focus on what we know and what we can control. Yet, one thing I have most certainly learned is that human consciousness and control don’t work very well together.

Ahhh, this one is good since its about innocence and fun.

Curiosity = Wonder + Awe

When we were children, we were always in a state of wonder. When we are in our eighties, we are in a state of awe and in between those two bookends, we lose our curiosity.

Says Chip, “there’s a window between 46 and 50 years of age and in that window, people feel like they’re on a freeway and want to escape more than any other time in their lives.”

He talked about emotional intelligence and Daniel Golerman’s book Emotional intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Two thirds of successful people in business succeed because of emotional intelligence and only one third succeed intelligence.

So, Chip suggests that if two thirds of business leadership success is due to emotional intelligence, maybe two thirds of corporate university training should relate to and get people in touch with our emotions.

Hear hear Chip. People clap. Below is a quote that describes how he looks at leadership:

He also asserts that its time to evaluate performance differently, performance that is perhaps based upon both results and relationships rather than just results. As most of us who have worked in traditional companies know, you tend to get judged based on your results only.

So perhaps we need to retrain MBAs to know that they don’t have to be superhuman to become CEO, which is how he lived his life for awhile, and how most over achievers live their lives in all corners of the world today. “It’s not about being superhuman,” he says, “it’s really about being a SUPER HUMAN.” Chip adds, “the most neglected fact in business is that we are all human.”

See his TED 2010 talk here.

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